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The Patrol part 9

back to The Patrol Part 8


      Station Log Supplemental.
      The face on the monitor screen was Doctor Harding. An older humanoid that was using a deep space assignment to bring him that much closer to retirement, his eyes looked as tired as his voice now sounded.
      "Commander Klastor's condition in extremely critical condition. According to the best advice I can get from Star Fleet Medical, it's up to her now. The advice I got from the Empire was 'Let her die a Warrior's Death.' Which I disregarded."

      Commander Klastor was returning from delivering some personnel being rotated out to a nearby trading port and picking up another crewman and some supplies at the same base when her shuttle was either attacked or experienced a catastrophic malfunction. There was barely enough of the shuttle to tow back to the base, the investigation was going with frustrating slowness.
      A NEBULA class starship, The FALCON responded first to the scene and beamed the Commander directly to sickbay, where she was put on full life support. Her co-pilot, Lieutenant Hopper, the new crewman, was dead at the scene, partially demolecularized by something they couldn't begin to name. The ship scanned for weapons and energy traces, and pieces of space junk, everything. But all they had were more questions.
      The FALCON brought the shuttle and the Commander back to the station. There was nothing more anybody could do for her. They went over the records of the shuttle and its cargo. They even investigated Lt. Hopper's past. Nothing came up to explain the incident.
      The CMO of the FALCON concurred with the medical opinion of the starbase's doctor, "I do not see the progress Doctor Harding sees with Commander Klastor, however, I defer to him as the senior MD and as the Medical Officer for the station. The Commander remains under complete life support and constant monitoring."
      After over a week on the ship, the Commander had been transferred to the station with enough equipment to maintain her condition almost indefinitely. She had made some progress, her brain waves were steady and defined, her vital signs were now recognizable as Klingon again. The Falcon wished them all well, and continued it's mission.
      There was still no clue as to what had happened to the shuttle.

      The Colonel stood by her life support bed and frowned.
      "Can you guys do anything for her?" Doctor Harding asked the Colonel.
      "Not any more than has been done. Unfortunately, most of our technology is geared for the ending of life, not the preservation of it." He looked at her face, there was no peace there, even in her unconscious state. "But perhaps, other techniques may help."
      The doctor and the Colonel stared at each other, the doctor nodded.
      "I know I'm not up to it." He touched her cheek, then he changed his tone of voice. "Marot, I need you in sickbay."
      In a few minutes the small-built dark woman walked in.
      She looked at the Commander. "I haven't done that many Klingons." Marot said.
      The Colonel said nothing. Doctor Harding just watched. Marot walked to the side of the bed and looked at the patient.
      The doctor expected her to go into the Vulcan mind meld posture, or to do Something. Marot, however, did Nothing.
      In a moment, Marot seemed to be concealed in a thin haze.
      Commander Klastor shuddered on the bed. Then her eyes opened wide.
      Marot spoke. "There is an energy field in her body that is holding her apart from her body."
      "I haven't detected anything like that." Harding said.
      "It is there. Cold energy." Marot said without looking at him.
      "What can I do?" Doctor Harding said.
      "Kill her."
      "Kill her. I will tell you when it is gone. Then you will have to bring her back."
      The Colonel looked at the Commander, "Is the field alive?"
      Marot was silent for a minute. "I do not know."
      The men stood and looked at each other.
      "Nothing else I have tried has made any difference. She is not responding. If it is the only way..."
      Marot glanced at the doctor without seeing him. "It is the only way."
      The Doctor sighed, "It figures. How should we do it?"
      Marot closed her eyes. "I will try." She winced and her eyes flew open. "It will not let me." Sweat ran down her forehead.
      Doctor Harding went to his instruments and picked up a hypospray, it took him a minute to find what he wanted and get it loaded. He handed it to the Colonel.
      The Colonel nodded, understanding. He put it directly over the Commander's heart and injected everything in it.
      There was no reaction from the Commander.
      Marot nodded. "It is working."
      "That was twice the lethal dose of Porchie's serum."
      The Colonel grinned knowingly. "It would kill a warrior three times her size. But not with her spirit."
      "I can't give her any more. I might not be able to bring her back."
      The life monitors started to fluctuate.
      Marot's face was a mask of concentration and strain. "Use more."
      The Doctor started to protest.
      "Don't, I'll help her." The Colonel said and put his hands on the Commander's shoulders.
      The scene stayed the same for a long minute. Then the life sign monitors went flat. The Colonel staggered backwards, pale and disoriented. Marot opened her eyes, except for the sweat and a case of dry mouth, she was fine. "I will help her come back." She said quietly.
      "Is it gg..." The doctor began when all hell broke loose in the examination room.
      A blue fire appeared near the ceiling, Marot looked at it and screamed and covered her eyes. It coalesced into a heavy blue haze and moved toward Doctor Harding.
      "Intruder in sickbay!" He shouted. "Hostile intruder in sickbay!" He backed up, aware of two things. It could kill him, and unless he did something in short order, Commander Klastor was dead for keeps.
      "Intruder Alert!" Davis said over the com as the intruder signal blared. "All personnel, hostile in sickbay. Units responding identify."
      It swirled for a second. Harding remembered one of the things that Marot said. It was a cold energy. He ran his hand across his instrument table and picked up a bone regenerator, he flipped it to its maximum setting and aimed it at the blue energy and squeezed.
      It reacted immediately, ripping through the fixtures and monitors that hung from the ceiling.
      The Colonel was working to focus his eyes, he reached for his weapon and in a second bright phaser energy was chasing the blue cloud around the room.
      It turned a dark blue and blasted through a bulkhead and out into the corridor. Two of the crew, now acting as security guards were extremely surprised outside. They recovered quickly and fired their weapons at it.
      As soon as it was out of the way, the Doctor began working to bring the Commander back.
      "I've got her." Doctor Harding said to the almost fully recovered Colonel, "They don't know what they're dealing with." He jerked his head to the door.
      He took a deep breath and rushed out after the enemy.
      "Who's on the ship?" The Colonel said into his communicator as rounded the corner. The two crewmen had the thing in a dead end corridor. It swirled, they fired. It went through the floor, leaving an ugly hole.
      "Wan here."
      "Can you scan this thing?"
      "Working." Wan said. "No."
      "I'm on my way." Kavel said through his com.
      "I got a visual on it on the engineering deck." Davis added through the station's system.
      The Colonel nodded to the two crewmen, they headed for the lift.

      Jeap was screaming in the maintenance section. He was wielding a plasma cutter like a sword. The blue energy was dark and menacing in front of him.
      "Duck!" The Colonel shouted.
      Jeap didn't have to be told twice. He fell to the floor and fierce energy ripped through the room. The blue fire swirled violently and attacked the people that had fired at it. Aashth dove to the floor firing at it as it passed overhead. The Colonel didn't flinch, he fired point blank at the cloud of blue light. It darted to one side and smashed along, then through, the wall.
      "It's gone." The Colonel said looking after it.
      "And how." Aashth said admiring the hole in the metal wall.
      "Damnit." Jeap said.
      "Get to sickbay and get that fixed." The Colonel said to him.
      "Later." He walked to a locker shaking his burned arm. "I want another shot at it."
      Inside the locker were several heavy disruptor rifles.
      "Klingon." The Colonel said holstering his phaser and taking one of the weapons. "Nice."
      Jeap passed them out. "Leftovers from some guests we had before I got here."
      The Colonel nodded, "I saw the log." He made an adjustment on the weapon. "Full effect, wide dispersal." He keyed his communicator. "Kavel, anything?"
      "Not yet. I can tell where it's been."
      "So can we."
      Davis spoke up. "I think I saw it near the fighter bay."
      "On our way."

      The fighter launch area was cavernous. The sleek deadly planes sat in rows in the half-light.
      Now the search party numbered nine heavily armed people. They stayed in visual contact with each other and swept the deck.
      "It's on deck six." Davis said. "It killed Baxter."
      "Kavel, beam us to deck six, defensive perimeter."
      "On it Colonel. Stand by. In three, two, one."
      They were on deck six, Jeap was standing over Baxter. Or what was left of Baxter. He looked like some of the bulkheads had looked. His phaser, now drained, still gripped in his hand, the trigger still pulled.
      "From now on, nobody's alone." The Colonel said.
      They moved on. Checking rooms.
      "It's in here." Matthews said gesturing into a storage room.
      "What's in those?" Aashth pointed at some containers.
      "I don't know." Matthews said. "Those are energizer packs for the fighter's weapons." He pointed to a row of metal cases.
      Jeap looked at the first ones closely. "I think it's oxichromite, for the life support on the fighters."
      Aashth thought about it for a second. "Davis." He said to the com.
      "Get ready with a containment field around this section. When the show starts, blow the exterior door."
      "Already working on it. Ready when you are."
      "We've got left." The Colonel said nodding to two crewmen.
      "We're right. Aim." Aashth said as Jeap and Matthews leveled their weapons. "Davis, pay attention now... FIRE!"
      The effect was instantaneous. The room erupted in small explosions that combined into a huge fireball of intense heat. The outer door flew off the station and a brief but intense whirlwind blew the explosion, and the blue energy mass, into space.
      As soon as it was clear of the station the black ship and the station itself erupted in an amazing display of firepower. All aimed at the field of blue energy.
      The heavy laser cannon from the ship seemed to have the greatest effect on it. Every pulse made it swirl in a disorganized pattern, then it fought to reorganize itself and move toward the ship or the station.
      The field grew dark blue and moved away from its tormentors at extremely high speed and an almost random flight path. As the black ship gained on it, the blue fire was enveloped in a bright blue outline, then it was gone."
      "Warp." Wan growled. "Pursue."
      "No way." Kavel said. "We still can't scan it, if we lost visual, it could be in here with us again."
      Wan growled, but he took the engines off line and set a return course.

      "I don't know." The Commander said as she sat up slightly in bed.
      "Did you see it before the accident?" Davis asked her.
      "We were just cruising at warp three, and then, we weren't. I don't remember anything until I saw her in my sleep. And then I was awake." The Commander smiled at Marot.
      "Get some rest. You're still not over the poison."
      Klastor wanted to argue with him, but she just didn't have it in her. She settled back into the bed and was asleep in seconds.
      Outside the Colonel nodded to Davis. "Whatever it is, it can generate it's own low energy warp field. It used at least survival instincts..."
      "And it can kill. And destroy a space station." Doctor Harding said.
      "And it didn't seem much impressed by the best we could throw at it." Aashth said.
      "If anything all we did was make it mad." Jeap said scowling at his burned arm where the thing just brushed him.
      "Get in there." Doctor Harding said to him pushing him into sickbay.

      The Colonel met his people on the black ship.
      "So how did it know to attack Klastor's ship?"
      Kavel shook his head. "It must have followed us here sometime."
      "If it stays true to form, it won't be back." Aashth said.
      "Yeah, we stung it this time." Wan said with an evil grin.
      "It was waiting there for you." Marot said. "It reacted when you melded with her."
      "I couldn't let it just stay in her." The Colonel said.
      Kavel and Marot exchanged knowing glances. Aashth just looked worried.
      Rontel smiled at him, "I think its nice."
      Wan rumbled and creaked as he stood, disgusted.
      "Well it's out of her. And it's loose again." Kavel said.
      "We've got to figure out a way to destroy it." Aashth said.
      "Two more to its death toll. Lieutenant Hopper, Crewman Baxter. Two more I'll never forget." The Colonel's eyes were distant.
      "That's forty-seven." Rontel said. "That we know of."
      "Forty-seven in thirty years. It's a little slow." Aashth said.
      "That's not the point. I shouldn't have given it a chance in the first place." His eyes got even more distant.


      A somewhat younger looking Colonel was walking slowly through a massive stone building.
      "Nothing on scanner Commander." A fully Andorian Wan said.
      "Tricorder. We call it a tricorder."
      Wan snorted. "Still nothing on scanner."
      "My contact says the energy feed control room is here. In a concealed room four levels down, away over that way." He gestured off to one side.
      "Contact." Wan said sarcastically.
      They walk deeper into the huge ancient building. Part of the passage had collapsed sometime in the last millennium. Their lights pierced far into the void, but no matter how bright they set the beams, there was a lot more darkness than they had light.
      They found the descending passage. Hot dry air belched from below in thick gusts. The Colonel looked behind them, then nodded, they began the descent.
      "Something moving." Wan said looking at his 'scanner'.
      "I saw it."
      They paused for a second, Wan shook his head, they went on slowly.
      The passage angled off to one side sharply then ended at another long wide passage that ran further into the dark. Hot air of various intensities swirled in from different directions. Once in awhile the floor vibrated and a rumble rolled through the passages.
      "This way." The Colonel gestured to the left with his gloved hand, "The next passage down is down here on the right."
      "You know way out." Wan said. The Colonel didn't respond immediately. Wan said it again.
      "Yeah sure." The Colonel said starting to walk ahead. The air was relatively cooler down this passage.
      Wan grunted despondently and followed taking slow heavy steps.
      The first turn they made was blocked by rubble. "There's another way into it on the other side of an Open."
      "What's Open?"
      "You'll see." The Colonel said retracing his steps.
      After a few minutes the Colonel's light, following the floor, found a small curb, then it vanished into nothing. They stopped walking then stepped forward slowly.
      In front of them was a yawning chasm.
      "The information says some of these are bottomless." The Colonel said peering down.
      "Not bottom less. Scanner says magma down there. Seventy five kilometers." Wan didn't have a sense of humor. And since he was of a stockier and more muscular build than most Andorians, he got away with it.
      The Open was some distance around and part of the walkway had decided to join the gap causing them to cling to the wall and slide along with nothing but stale air in front of them for seventy-five kilometers.
      "This way." The Colonel said checking his handheld unit with his maps and information in it. He walked towards a large arched doorway.
      "That way." Wan snarled still edging his way across the gap.
      Wan joined the Colonel in the room on the other side of the arch. This time the rumble seemed to come from all around them.
      "This isn't good." The Colonel said looking from his display that showed three passages off the room to the room that had five doors, four open passages, and another archway off to one side of the room. "That one." He said pointing his light at a door.
      "Wooden." The Colonel said tugging at it. The door opened slowly. The air behind it was stale. The Colonel nodded and they proceeded.
      Twenty meters down, the passage ended with several small doors and cabinets on each side. They opened door after door.
      "Dratsomes." Wan said.
      The Colonel nodded. "Yeah, we found their closets."
      Inside some of the closets were a few ancient personal items. Containers, dried out boxes and wrapped packages lined some of the shelves and bins.
      "I take this." Wan pulled something out of a narrow cabinet. He held out a bright double-edged long-sword.
      "It's you." The Colonel said inspecting the blade. "It's still sharp. That's odd."
      Wan grinned as much as he ever did, which wasn't a lot, then attached the sheath to his utility belt.
      After a few more minutes of looking through the long abandoned pantry they backtracked out to the chamber of doors. The Colonel examined his display, then looked back at the room.
      "OK I see. Three of the doors are metal. Two are wood. I was close." He indicated the metal door next to the wooden one they had just come out.
      "Close. But wrong." Wan added.
      The metal door opened easily but noisily. "This is it." The Colonel said ignoring him.
      The passage went on for a long way, then it branched. The Colonel picked the right fork without hesitation. It ended at another metal door.
      "Now we're on the other side of that blockage." He nodded back down the passage. "This way." He pointed with the datapad.
      A tremor forced them to put their hands on the wall to keep their footing. Wan mumbled that the wall was hot. The Colonel ignored him and kept going.
      Their descending passage was off to one side of a major intersection.
      "Something moving. Behind us." Wan turned with his scanner. "Not there now."
      "Let's keep going." The Colonel said.

      At the bottom of the ramp the Colonel checked his pad carefully, "We're on the right level. That way." He pointed down a broad passage.
      They walked for nearly a kilometer following the passage around several descending bends, then they came to a branch. The Colonel stopped and looked at his pad. "This isn't supposed to be here. Unless we've covered twice the distance I thought we have." He took readings with his tricorder and went through the datapad carefully.
      "They're back." Wan said running his scanner in short sweeps of the passages. "Lot of them."
      "Come on." The Colonel said tapping Wan on his arm. He walked smartly straight at the wall.
      Wan stood amazed as the Colonel vanished. Then he followed, one hand on his pistol.
      They were still in the passage, "That shouldn't have been there." The Colonel said about three times.
      The passage went on now, always slightly downhill, with no crossways or turns for some distance. Then it came to a major intersection. "This is right." The Colonel smiled.
      A strong ice-cold wind was blowing from one large dark passage to the left. The tunnel they were on narrowed on the other side and began to climb.
      "That way." The Colonel pointed with the datapad to the right. "Now we are under Mount Joulka." He said.
      "That volcano. Haunted volcano." Wan said making sure his plasma blaster pistol was fully charged.
      "The name means 'hot fear' in their language." The Colonel grinned. "Surly you're not afraid."
      Wan was silent but pointed his scanner down the passage. "Still moving." He said.

      The chilly wind was blowing hard on their backs now. The passage ran downhill for a dozen meters, then narrowed and began to climb. The cold wind blowing constantly from behind them.
      "We want a side passage to a chamber just ahead. You'll notice this is a natural tunnel, a lava tube." The Colonel said pointing his light at the wall.
      Wan scowled at him.
      The Colonel peered into one chamber, shook his head and went on. He passed on the next one too. The upward angle was getting steep, but still there were no stairs carved into the floor. The cold wind was now at least a gale. The Colonel stepped carefully, almost climbing the floor instead of walking. The third passage to the left he took.
      Just inside the passage the air changed from freezing cold to blasting hot, the passage went on but the Colonel stopped after a couple of steps.
      "Whoa. That's a bit extreme." The Colonel said. He caught his breath and was sweating profusely in a minute. He looked at his pad. "Over there." He gestured to a small door that didn't seem to belong there. He had to duck to get through the door into the chamber.
      For the last dozen kilometers, the decor varied between coalmine, ancient temple, and natural cavern. In some places the stones had been worked by hand. Some of the masonry had runes and symbols carved into it, some as original labels or directions, others as graffiti or private messages. In either case, it was ages old. This chamber and the door beyond showed no signs of tool work, in fact, the walls were smooth and gleaming.
      "Phasers." Wan said looking at the walls.
      "No, but the same idea." He looked around. "It's here. Same technology as in the passage. Give me a minute."
      Wan eyed the outside passage nervously, "They're coming."
      "Won't matter in a second. And like this." He did something to his tricorder. It hummed for a second, then a high pitched squeal filled the room.
      And the room wasn't empty any more.
      Wan looked at the equipment. "Whose is this?"
      "We don't know. But my contact wants it turned off. It's feeding energy from the volcano into part of subspace. Creating channels and currents." The Colonel said. "We have permission to take whatever we can of it and then destroy the rest."
      "How destroy?"
      "I was going to let the volcano do it for us." The Colonel grinned. "How about that, it's scanning us."
      "Shielded. Powerful shields." Wan ran his scanner over it as well.
      "Not for long. But first, let me look around. Watch the door for our friends."
      The Colonel found what appeared to be a large storage locker. It took him some fumbling with his tricorder and playing with his phaser to get it open, but he did. "Well now, look at this." He said as he went through its contents. He dumped his backpack and refilled it with everything that would fit. Two other pieces he picked up and stuffed into Wan's backpack.
      "What's that?"
      "I don't know. But I will find out." He closed the pack. "They're still outside?" The Colonel looked out into the passage.
      "Lot of them."
      "What are they?"
      "Not bats. Something like bats. But not bats."
      "HALT!" A low multi-tonal voice said loudly in the room. "HALT!" It repeated.
      "Who?" Wan said.
      "I'll work on that." The Colonel said turning back to the room.
      "Something moving down passage, blocked by rock fall." Wan said. "Big somethings. Lot of energy."
      "We won't be here that long." He looked at the equipment, scanning everything carefully. "OK, that'll do it." He aimed his phaser at the unit he wanted. "And this." He fired. The unit's shielding was intact.
      "And that." Wan said sourly.
      "It changed its frequency. Nice trick." He made an adjustment and fired again. The shields collapsed. "OK, now." The Colonel went to the unit and worked the controls for a minute or so. "That should upset your haunted volcano." He grinned. "I'm pulling the subspace energy back in and feeding it to the magma pocket under us." He twisted a dial on his phaser, then he melted about half the control unit. "This will tell me when the deed is done." He put a small communicator inside the storage locker and closed the door.
      "Under us. Volcano." Wan said with a scowl shaking his head at the Colonel.
      "HALT!" The voice said. Then it continued in a slightly higher tone. "You have violated a facility maintai..."
      The Colonel phasered the console that did the speaking, cutting the voice off mid-speech. "I'm about to violate it for keeps. Let's go."
      But the bat things had other ideas. The doorway was thick with them.
      Wan leveled his blaster and fired. A dozen of the things shattered into hundreds of pieces. Only to be replaced by two dozen more.
      The floor and walls heaved. The volcano was unhappy about the changes the Colonel made.
      The Colonel's phaser took out the next set.
      "We'll go through them." The Colonel said as the vibrations eased enough to permit it. He shouldered his pack and waded into the things.
      "Through them." Wan said.
      The bats were annoying, but that was all.

      They fell and slid and rolled down the steep part of the passage. The cold wind had stopped, now an increasingly hot breeze was blowing down the shaft from behind them. Tremors caused large chucks of the ceiling to break loose and crash down, sometimes bouncing off them as they clamored out of the way.
      "Other way out?" Wan asked as they ran, half blinded by the bats.
      "I'll have to look." The Colonel said swatting the creatures from in front of his face.
      An energy bolt screamed past them.
      "That's not from a bat." The Colonel said.
      "Look later." Wan said. He fired back down the shaft at their unseen new enemy as the floor tilted violently.
      "Yeah." The Colonel got to his feet and led the way.
      They turned onto the broad passage and ran as hard as they could. Now the bats were beginning to thin out.
      "Transporter." Wan said scanning ahead. He fired into its shimmer disrupting whatever was materializing in it.
      "Up." The Colonel said glancing at his pad. "It's not the right one, but it'll get us off this level."
      "Up." Wan followed.
      Mount Joulka was letting its world know exactly how upset it was with what the Colonel had done to it.
      Outside huge lava fountains were developing along several new cracks. The top of the mountain was lost in huge clouds of smoke and ash.
      In the maze of tunnels, chambers and passages things were getting just as interesting.
      The Colonel's communicator beeped at him. He looked at it. "I lost the carrier, our friend's little hideaway just bought it." He grinned. "Mission accomplished."
      They ran on.

      "JUMP!" The Colonel shouted as the floor beneath them yawned open and steam billowed up.
      "Upset volcano." Wan muttered as he got back to his feet to run some more.
      "This way." The Colonel shouted.
      Something fired a bright blue energy beam at them. The floor lurched violently, the rumble and groans of the mountain were now a steady roar.
      "That way!" The Colonel shouted.
      Wan fired a couple of shots at their attacker and followed at a dead run.
      In a few more minutes the Colonel had to stop and check his datapad. "I have no idea where we are." He looked around the circular room with doors and passages leading every which way off of it.
      "Up better than down." Wan said.
      "You're right." The Colonel pointed his light at the narrow door with stairs running up. "Up."
      It was nothing but a long winding staircase. After several levels they left it to run down a passage the seemed to lead in the general direction they wanted to go.
      An Open gaped before them. Now the magma wasn't kilometers below them. It was only a couple of levels down.
      "That way." The Colonel pointed. They ran down a large rectangular tunnel with symbols all over its walls. "We're in the Temple area. I can get us out from there."
      The passage was breaking up around them.
      After several more meters the broad passage shattered as they watched. The section ahead of them was tilted fantastically. Liquid lava leaked from cracks in the wall. The Colonel shook his head and they ran down a side passage.
      The courtyard of the Temple opened in front of them. But it too was being devoured by lava.

      Something was standing in front of the dying building.
      The Colonel saw it.
      It glared at him without eyes.
      The Colonel felt it touch his soul.
      Wan yanked him out of the way of a huge lava bomb.
      "I'm OK." The Colonel said even though Wan hadn't asked. They ran down another tunnel.
      They fell out of the passage into a gigantic arena that was actually open to the sky above. Except bombs from the volcano were landing all over the place, parts of the area that had been overgrown with plants were now on fire.
      "It's not the Temple, but it'll do." He picked up his communicator. "Harley. We need a ride."
      The communicator was silent.
      "Harley." The Colonel repeated.
      "On our way. You're not where you were supposed to be." The voice answered.
      "We took the scenic route and made some new friends."
      "That would explain the funny weapons signatures earlier."
      "Keep that data. I want to look at it." The Colonel said as they scrambled under an overhang to avoid a fresh bombardment of flaming rock.
      Wan took the communicator. "Later Talk. Now Beam Out." He said into it.
      "Forty seconds to contact."
      The Colonel felt the thing again. He looked around for it. He saw something dark amidst the flaming brush moving quickly. It looked bluish against the heat behind it as it moved their way.
      But it didn't come at him.
      It was aiming for Wan. The Colonel couldn't move. He couldn't shout. He crouched there as molten rock rained down around him and stared as it smashed into Wan.
      Wan's scream brought him out of it.
      He fired his phaser into the blue mass. It rose in a cloud and roiled for a minute. Then it fled down the narrow passage behind them.
      Wan was quivering on the ground. Parts of his body were gone.
      "Medical emergency! Beam us directly to Med." He shouted into his communicator.

      Wan wasn't dead. Maybe he'd have been better off if he had died. The blue energy had vaporized parts of his body, and rendered others useless.
      On the ship Doctor Freider got Wan into the stasis chamber and gave the Colonel few options.
      "Mentally, he's still there. But if I bring him out of stasis he's going to be in incredible pain, and there is nothing I can do for the parts of his body that the energy destroyed. The nerves, blood supply and tissues were so badly damaged a normal transplant may never take. And I'm reluctant to put him through that trauma, if waking up half a man doesn't kill him, finding out what we did to him might."
      "Can he understand me?"
      The doctor adjusted some controls and waited a minute. "He can now."
      The Colonel bent down to Wan. "Do you understand me?"
      Wan almost focused his eyes. He barely nodded and muttered something to the affirmative.
      "Do you want me to let you go or to call Portor and do what we talked about last year on Dave's World?"
      Wan was silent for a long moment. The Doctor was afraid he had slipped further into shock.
      "Daveword." Wan said slowly. "Do it."
      The doctor's eyes were wide, he leaned around the equipment to stare into the man's eyes. "Wan. Do you realize everything involved?"
      The dying man definitely nodded. "I want machine." He said, then his eyes blurred.
      The doctor hurriedly set the controls to put him back in stasis.
      The Colonel looked at his sleeping friend. "I'm not going to leave him like this. I've got a few a couple of ideas, let me get hold of some people. How long can he stay like that?"
      The doctor looked at the injured man. "For right now, he's stable. But with his injuries, and the level of shock he was in from the attack, I expect him to start to deteriorate in a couple of days. Andorians aren't the most treatable physiology I've ever seen."
      "Just keep him alive until I get my answers. I've got a few favors to call in."
      "I'll do what I can."

      "This is il-legal on Fed-er-ation plan-ets."
      "And your point?" The Colonel said to the shifty looking trader.
      The trader looked passed the Colonel at Harley who had a massive disruptor rifle aimed at him, "You don't tr-ust me Co-lo-nel."
      "No. Because I know you."
      "You need it for some-one on your crew?" He gestured to several large metal boxes nearby.
      "Just verify the payment and go."
      The trader's eyes seemed to glow for a second. "Very well Co-lo-nel. I take pay-ment."
      The Colonel stood motionless. The trader picked up the parcel lying on a tree stump and walked slowly back toward a small ship.
      "Let's go." The Colonel said as the door to the ship closed. "Energize."

      The energy beam made hash of the wall and the fixtures on it.
      "I don't know where to get any thros...." The small heavyset human's denial was cut off by another blast from the Colonel's weapon. Sparks and debris showered down.
      "If I kill you, you can't tell me what I need. But I can make you miserable for awhile." The Colonel growled. He fired at the floor near the man's feet.
      The fat human shivered at the heat he felt through his shoes. Another beam actually was so close to his head it singed his hair. "Really! I don't know." He was almost crying.
      "Why don't I believe you?"
      "I don't know. I don...." Another blast, this time into the ceiling above him showered the entire room with dust and splinters.
      "OK. I'll tell you." He cried, "Then I'll move off world before Santos Briel kills me." His voice was breaking as tears streamed down his face.
      "Good man." The Colonel said, but he fired one more blast into the wall near the fat man's protruding stomach.
      "I said I'll tell you!"
      "Get to telling."
      "Bratupa Station. They've got all the throsopline you could want."
      "I want about three years worth. So I don't have to come back here to see you."
      "They've got tons of it. Ooau Tauw cornered the market on it. He bought it all so everybody in the sector has to deal with him. He got that and drud spean and aaahhhhhhhh...." The Colonel cut him off by firing into the floor between his feet, the fat man winced and shut his eyes tightly.
      "I just want the throsopline."
      "He's got it. But he's going to charge you..." He looked out through half closed lids, his tormentor was gone.

      "They're heavily shielded. Ray, transporter, ship, everything." Harley said as the Colonel's old but functional scout ship sat some distance from the station in the middle of the DMZ between systems claimed by the Federation and the Romulins.
      "So they think they are invincible." The Colonel said.
      "No sir. They ARE invincible."
      "Maybe to the rest of the galaxy, but I've got a plan."
      An old woman that appeared to be of several races nodded, "We've heard that before." She ran her hands over the panel in front of her. "All systems are ready for, whatever you're plotting."
      The Colonel smiled. "That's what I like to hear."

      A small scow approached the station.
      The station's weapons came on line and there was an obvious scanning beam that engulfed the ship.
      Then some messages flew back and forth between the two. The scow approached the station slowly.
      The station lowered its shields and the small ship moved to dock.
      "NOW!" The Colonel shouted as he began the sequence on his controls.
      "Warp three for five seconds. Counting down, four, three, two..."
      "Energizing." The Colonel said.
      "They've spotted us, their weapons are coming up." Harley said.
      "Doesn't matter. Got it. Go!" The Colonel said sharply.
      "Warp seven, NOW." The woman said. The ship lurched.
      And they were as gone as if they had never been there.
      The only evidence that anything had happened was an empty place in a cargo hold where several tons of the bio-active energy source had been. And because of the exactness of near-warp transport, part of the floor and the wall were gone as well.
      The captain and crew of the trading scow were executed as accomplices to the raid after a trial that lasted all of two minutes.

      The surgery on Wan began immediately.
      Doctor Freider even called in a favor or two of his own. A Star Fleet Doctor he knew from his prior career, her specialty was unusual microscopic damage and transplants. She had done time on starships and knew how unusual some situations could be. The tricky part had been getting Wan, the hardware, and supplies for his procedure onto the starbase where they had the medical equipment Freider and his friend needed.
      The Colonel bided his time on the scout and did mindless chores trying not to think about what was going on, and something even more chilling, the blue energy field that had done the damage in the first place.
      Through his career, the Colonel had made several enemies. Some of them had made it a point of getting even with the Colonel. A few had come close, a couple had even managed to nearly make good on their threat. Luck or fate or something had been with him in every case, and many of those enemies ended up meeting variously messy ends.
      This thing. It didn't fit any description of an alien life force he had ever heard of. It acted intelligently, he was sure it had contacted him on some level. And instead of going after him, it went after Wan. Which hurt him more than if it had attacked him directly. And the Colonel knew that the thing knew that about him.
      Wan woke up the next day, and on the whole, he accepted his new lot in life with the same near total indifference as he had approached everything else up to that point.
      "Yeah. I'm in pain. So?" He said to the doctors as they stood over him fretting.
      Several weeks passed as Wan learned how to use his new legs and his mechanical arm and hand. But the one thing he knew instantly how to use and wondered why every pilot didn't have one was his interface with the ship's navigation and propulsion system. It was instinct, he didn't have to learn it.
      "This I know. I'm pilot." He said plugging himself into the ship.
      The Colonel smiled at him. "And a danged good pilot you are too."
      Immediately he put the ship through an incredible series of maneuvers with no sideslip or drift through the pattern that almost always occurred because of the delay between interface, pilot, and ship.
      "Impressive." The Colonel said as the stars wheeled by.
      Something gnawed at the Colonel. He knew the blue energy wasn't done with him.

      Six months later they ran into something that looked like it in a system light-years from the ruined temple.
      They had been assigned a simple hit. A syndicate strongman that had fancied himself the ruler and god-king of a series of outposts and planets. And was extorting outrageous tribute from everybody. The trick was finding the target. They spent a week on the man's planet and found dozen's of people who matched the description, they were even close on the DNA scan.
      "Not only do these people actually look alike, they ARE the same." The Colonel gripped.
      Then he saw something moving. A cloud of shimmering energy was drifting across the market. Some of the locals saw it and pointed that way. Then it came into contact with a pole light.
      An explosion shook the market. The cloud dipped down into the crowd. Screams erupted.
      The cloud was coming his way. "Emergency beam out. My cover's gone."
      As he dematerialized he saw one of the locals being absorbed by the cloud. The man was flailing uselessly as the cloud congealed around him, then the cloud was gone, the man was lying motionless on the ground.
      They stayed cloaked in orbit for another day, trying to find the target.
      Finally, an incoming ship turned out to have the man on it. The Colonel, out of patience and time, ordered Wan to remain cloaked and come in behind the ship and aim a heavy particle beam up their exhaust port.
      In a few minutes the targeted ship was an expanding cloud of radioactive debris and the Colonel's ship was leaving at high warp.
      But the thing that sat on the Colonel's mind was the blue cloud.

      Over the next several years it crossed his path once in awhile. Toying with him, blowing his cover, killing some of his friends, injuring others, crippling ships. A dozen times it could have had him, and he knew it. But it never got that close, even when he dared it to come after him, as he had on the station after it had attacked Jeap.
      Nobody but his crew knew what it was, he kept it a secret from everybody, including his contacts at the Federation and Star Fleet. Nobody else knew.
      The Colonel put it best. "If I told Admiral Rickett that I had an energy being that was an ancient alien god after me, and that it had killed, maimed and possessed two dozen people across most of the Federation in the last ten years, what would be the most likely response?"

      They started to repair the station.
      Commander Klastor was not allowed to do anything other than watch. The energy being had left holes through bulkheads and framing members alike. The cargo hold had been blasted to the point it needed major rebuilding.
      Fortunately the black ship could replicate the majority of the parts they needed. But installing them was still a matter of cutting away the damaged portions and putting them back in place.
      The work was about half done when the Colonel got another call.
      "A what?" He said to the screen.
      "They are called the Horta. They are intelligent, but they chose to not participate in anything the Federation does except help in various mines. And they were working in this one until recently."
      "Why do you need us."
      "We were hoping your special talents, and your equipment could handle the local conditions better than our stuff. Our scanners are useless in the mine."
      The Colonel nodded slowly. "OK, standard mission rates apply though."
      "Standard rates." Admiral Rickett said with a slight grin.

Continued in: The Patrol Part 10

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